Strengthen your security baseline

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

That’s why I believe we have a hope of correcting the terrible mess that Windows users are facing from constant patching to combat viruses, spam, and identity theft.

I wrote in the Sept. 23 issue of the Windows Secrets Newsletter that an astonishly high 30% of American consumers had experienced online identity theft, according to Gartner Inc. This is just one of the many unacceptable, lawless assaults that we face, including ever-expanding waves of viruses, worms, spam, and phishing attacks.

I described in the June 3 issue five essential components of what I called the "security baseline." I now feel that a sixth component, upgrade-management software, must be added to my definition of the security baseline.

These are the minimum hardware devices and software applications, therefore, that are currently needed by any individual or company that connects a PC to the Internet:

  • Hardware firewall to make your systems invisible to "port scans" by hackers;
  • Software firewall to prevent worms from sneaking in or communicating out via your Internet connection;
  • Antivirus program to detect and eliminate infected files and e-mail attachments;
  • Antispam filter to prevent obviously bogus e-mail messages from reaching your Inbox and tempting you to click links to crooked Web sites; and
  • Anti-adware scanner to delete adware, spyware, and browser hijackers in your system and prevent them from getting control in the future.
  • Update-management software to handle today’s constant stream of patches and upgrades, whether the choice is Windows Update for individuals or a small-business or corporate package to handle 5 to 5,000 PCs.
  • Despite the undeniable value of all of the above, a majority of PC users don’t yet know what a firewall is, much less have one installed and properly configured.

    WindowsSecrets.com, therefore, plans to redesign its content and dedicate itself to two goals this year:

    1. Explain the security baseline to consumers and executives alike; and

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2005-01-13: